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When can you rely on HMRC guidance?


Published: 04 Jul 2023 Update History

HMRC has updated its statement on when taxpayers can rely on HMRC guidance. It is now framed within the context of how HMRC advice and information can help taxpayers.

HMRC issues advice to taxpayers through publicly available guidance on its website and direct contact with the taxpayers. HMRC’s updated page now includes guidance on what type of communications may constitute advice or information from HMRC.

In some cases, HMRC’s advice can be considered binding. HMRC has expanded its guidance regarding what it will take into account when dealing with a taxpayer who has relied on incorrect advice and information from HMRC. If a taxpayer has relied on incorrect advice or information from HMRC, it may be bound by that advice if: 

  • it is reasonable for the taxpayer to expect this; and 
  • if it would be seriously detrimental to the taxpayer for HMRC to act differently from the advice given.

Taxpayers will need to evidence the guidance they have relied upon. This might include keeping contemporaneous notes of phone calls, printouts of webchat correspondence, or printouts of HMRC manual pages.

The guidance also makes it clear that where tax law is changed by the courts, HMRC may consider applying the correct tax position prospectively, rather than being bound by its previous advice.

The updated statement is the first part of a review of reliance on guidance. ICAEW understands that there will be further consultation on this subject as part of HMRC’s Tax Administration Framework Review.

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